The Two Genies
Every one in the province of Candahar knows the adventures of young Rustem. He was the only son of a Mirza of that country—or as we might say, a lord. His father, the Mirza, had a good estate. Rustem was to be married to the daughter of a Mirza of his own rank, as both families ardently desired. He was intended to be the comfort of his parents, to make his wife happy, and to be happy with her.
But, unfortunately, he had seen the Princess of Cashmere at the great fair at Cabul, which is the most important fair in the whole world. And this was the reason why the old Prince of Cashmere had brought his daughter to the fair: he had lost the two most precious objects in his treasury; one was a diamond as big as my thumb, on which, by an art then known to the Indians, but now forgotten, a portrait of his daughter was engraved; the other was a javelin, which of its own accord would strike whatever mark the owner wished.
A fakir in his Highness's train had stolen these treasures, and carried them to the Princess. "Take the greatest care of these two things," said he; "your fate depends upon them." Then he went away, and was seen no more.
The Prince of Cashmere, in great despair at his loss, determined to travel to the fair at Cabul, to see whether among all the merchants who collected there from the four quarters of the earth, there might not be one who had his diamond or his weapon. He took his daughter with him wherever he went, and unknown to him she carried the diamond safe in her girdle; but as for the javelin, which she could not conveniently hide, she left it in Cashmere, safely locked up in a large Chinese chest.
At Cabul she and Rustem saw each other, and they fell in love, with all the ardour of their nation. As a love-token the Princess gave him the diamond; and, at parting, Rustem promised to go to see her secretly in Cashmere.
The young Mirza had two favourite attendants who served him as secretaries, stewards and body-servants. One was named Topaz; he was handsome and well-made, as fair as a Circassian beauty, as gentle and obliging as an Armenian, and as wise as a Parsee. The other was called Ebony; a good-looking Negro, more active and more industrious than Topaz, and one who never made objections. To them he spoke about his journey. Topaz tried to dissuade him with the cautious zeal of a servant who is anxious not to offend, and reminded him of all the risks. How could he leave two families in despair, and cut his parents to the heart? He shook Rustem's purpose; but Ebony once more confirmed it, and removed his scruples.
The young man had not money enough for so long a journey. Wise Topaz would have refused to get it for him. Ebony provided it. He quietly stole his master's diamond, and had a false one made exactly like it, which he put in its place, pledging the real one to an Armenian for many thousands of rupees.
As soon as Rustem had the rupees he was ready to start An elephant was loaded with his baggage, and they set out on horseback.
"I took the liberty," said Topaz to his master, "of remonstrating against your enterprise; but after speaking it was my duty to obey. I am your slave. I love you, and will follow you to the end of the world. But let us consult the oracle which is on our way."
Rustem agreed. The answer of the oracle was this: "If you turn to the east you will turn to the west." Rustem could not understand this. Topaz maintained that it boded no good; Ebony, always accommodating, persuaded him that it was very favourable.
There was yet another oracle in Cabul, which they consulted also. The Cabul oracle replied as follows: "If you possess you will not possess; if you get the best of it, you will get the worst; if you are Rustem you will not be Rustem." This saying seemed still more incomprehensible than the other.
"Beware," said Topaz.
"Fear nothing," said Ebony. And he, as may be supposed, seemed to his master to be always in the right, since he encouraged his passion and his hopes.
On leaving Cabul they marched through a great forest. Here they sat down on the grass to eat, while the horses were turned loose to feed. They were about to unload the elephant, which carried the dinner and the service, when it was discovered that Topaz and Ebony were no longer with the party. They called them loudly: the forest echoed with the names of Topaz and Ebony; the men sought them in every direction and filled the woods with their shouts, but they came back having seen no one and heard no answer. "We saw nothing," they said to Rustem, "but a vulture fighting with an eagle and plucking out all its feathers."
The history of this struggle excited Rustem's curiosity; he went to the spot on foot. He saw no vulture or eagle, but he found that his elephant, still loaded with baggage, had been attacked by a huge rhinoceros. One was fighting with his horn, the other with his trunk. On seeing Rustem the rhinoceros retreated, and the elephant was led back. But now the horses were gone. "Strange things happen to travellers in the forest!" exclaimed Rustem. The servants were dismayed, and their master was in despair at having lost his horses, his favourite negro, and the sage Topaz, for whom he had always had a regard, though he did not always agree with his opinion.
He was comforting himself with the hope of soon finding himself at the feet of the beautiful Princess of Cashmere, when he met a fine striped ass, which a vigorous peasant was beating violently with a stick. There is nothing rarer, swifter, or more beautiful than an ass of this kind. This one retorted on the rustic for his thrashing by kicks which might have uprooted an oak. The young Mirza very naturally took the ass's part, for it was a beautiful beast. The peasant ran off, crying out to the ass: "I will pay you out yet!" The ass thanked its liberator after its fashion, went up to him, fawned on him, and received his caresses.
Having dined, Rustem mounted him, and took the road to Cashmere with his servants, some on foot and some riding the elephant.
Hardly had he mounted his ass, when the animal turned toward Cabul, instead of proceeding on the way to Cashmere. In vain his rider tugged at the bridle, jerked at the bit, squeezed his ribs with his knees, drove the spurs into his flanks, gave him his head, pulled him up, whipped him right and left. The obstinate beast still made direct to Cabul.
Rustem was growing desperate, when he met a camel-driver, who said to him:
"You have a very stubborn ass there, master, which insists on carrying you where you do not want to go. If you will let me have him, I will give you four of my camels, which you may choose for yourself."
Rustem thanked Providence for having sent so good a bargain in his way. "Topaz was all wrong," thought he, "to say that my journey would be unlucky." He mounted the finest of the camels, and the others followed. He soon rejoined his little caravan, and went on his way toward happiness.
He had not marched more than four miles, when he was stopped by a torrent, wide, deep and impetuous, tumbling over rocks all white with foam. On each shore rose precipitous cliffs, which bewildered the eyes and chilled the heart of man. There was no way of getting across, of turning to the right hand or to the left.
"I am beginning to fear," said Rustem, "that Topaz may have been right to reprehend me for this journey, and I very wrong to undertake it. If he were but here he might give me some good advice, and if I had Ebony, he at any rate would comfort me, and suggest some expedient. As it is I have no one left to help me."
His dismay was increased by that of his followers. The night was very dark, and they spent it in lamentations. At last fatigue and dejection brought sleep to the love-sick traveller. He awoke, however, at daybreak, and saw a fine marble bridge built across the torrent from shore to shore.
Then what exclamations, what cries of astonishment and delight! "Is it possible? Is it a dream? What a marvel! It is magic! Dare we cross it?" All the Mirza's train fell on their knees, got up again, went to the bridge, kissed the ground, looked up to heaven, lifted their hands; then tremulously set foot on it, went over, and came back in perfect ecstasy, and Rustem said, "Heaven is on my side this time. Topaz did not know what he was saying. The oracles were in my favour. Ebony was right; but why is he not here?"
Hardly had the caravan crossed in safety, when the bridge fell into the torrent with an appalling crash.
"So much the better!" cried Rustem. "God be praised! He does not intend me to return to my own country, where I should be only a private gentleman. He means me to marry the Princess. I shall be Prince of Cashmere. In that way, when I possess my Princess, I shall not possess my humble rank in Candahar; I shall be Rustem, and I shall not, since I shall be a great prince. There is a great deal of the oracle interpreted in my favour. The rest will be explained in the same way. I am too happy! But why is not Ebony at my side? I regret him a thousand times more than Topaz!"
He rode a few miles farther in great glee; but as evening fell, a chain of mountains, steeper than a rampart, and higher than the Tower of Babel would have been when finished, entirely closed the road against the travellers, who were filled with fears.
Every one exclaimed: "It is the will of God that we should perish here. He has broken down the bridge that we may have no hope of returning; He has raised up this mountain to hinder our going forward. Oh, Rustem! Oh, hapless Mirza! We shall never see Cashmere, we shall never return to the land of Candahar!"
In Rustem's soul the keenest anguish and most complete dejection succeeded the immoderate joy and hopes which had intoxicated him. He was now very far from interpreting the oracles to his advantage: "O merciful heaven!" he cried. "Have I really lost my friend Topaz?"
As he spoke the words, heaving deep sighs and shedding bitter tears in the sight of his despairing followers, behold, the base of the mountain opened, and a long, vaulted gallery lighted by a hundred thousand torches was revealed to his dazzled eyes!
Rustem broke into exclamations of joy; his people fell on their knees or dropped down with amazement, crying out that it was a miracle, and that Rustem was destined to govern the world. Rustem himself believed it, and was uplifted beyond measure. "Ah! Ebony, my dear Ebony, where are you?" he cried. "Why are you not here to see all these wonders? How did I come to lose you? Fair Princess of Cashmere, when shall I again behold your charms?"
He marched forward with his servants, his elephant and his camels, into the tunnel under the mountain, and, at the end of it came out upon a meadow enameled with flowers and watered by brooks. Beyond this meadow avenues of trees stretched into the far distance; at the end of them was a river bordered by delightful houses in the loveliest gardens. On every side he heard concerts of voices and instruments, and saw dancing. He hurried across one of the bridges over the river, and asked the first man he met what was this beautiful country.
The man to whom he spoke replied: "You are in the province of Cashmere; the inhabitants, as you see, are holding great rejoicings. We are doing honour to the wedding of our beautiful Princess, who is about to marry a certain lord named Barbabou, to whom her father has plighted her. May heaven prolong their happiness!"
On hearing these words Rustem fell down in a swoon. The gentleman of Cashmere, supposing that he was liable to fits, had him carried to his own house, where he lay some time unconscious. The two cleverest physicians of the district were called in; they felt their patient's pulse: and he, having somewhat recovered, sobbed and sighed, and rolled his eyes, exclaiming, "Topaz, Topaz, you were right after all!"
One of the physicians said to the gentleman of Cashmere, "I perceive by his accent that this young man comes from Candahar; the air of this country does not agree with him, and he must be sent home again. I can see by his eyes that he is mad; leave him in my hands; I will take him back to his own country and cure him." The other physician declared that his only complaint was melancholy, and that he ought to be taken to the Princess's wedding and compelled to dance.
While they were discussing his case the sick man recovered his powers; the two physicians were sent away, and Rustem remained alone with his host.
"Sir," said he, "I ask your pardon for fainting in your presence; I know that it is not good manners, and I entreat you to accept my elephant in acknowledgment of all the kindness with which you have received me."
He then related his adventures, taking good care not to mention the object of his journey. "But, in the name of Brahma," said he, "tell me who is this happy Barbabou who is to be married to the Princess of Cashmere, and why her father has chosen him for his son-in-law, and why the Princess has accepted him for her husband."
"My lord," replied the gentleman of Cashmere, "the Princess is far from having accepted him. On the contrary, she is drowned in tears, while the province rejoices over her marriage. She is shut up in the Palace Tower, and refuses to see any of the festivities prepared in her honour."
Rustem, on hearing this, felt new life in his soul, and the colour which sorrow had faded came again into his cheeks.
"Then pray tell me," he continued, "why the Prince of Cashmere persists in marrying her to Barbabou against her will."
"The facts are these," replied his friend. "Do you know that our august Prince lost some time ago a diamond and a javelin, on which his heart was greatly set?"
"I know it well," said Rustem.
"Then I must tell you," said his host, "that the Prince in despair at hearing nothing of his two treasures, after searching for them all the world over, promised his daughter in marriage to any one who would bring him either of them. Then Barbabou arrived and brought the diamond with him; and he is to marry the Princess to-morrow."
Rustem turned pale. He muttered his thanks, took leave of his host, and went off on his dromedary to the capital where the ceremony was to take place. He reached the palace of the sovereign, announced that he had matters of importance to communicate to him, and craved an audience. He was told that the Prince was engaged in preparing for the wedding. "That is the very reason," said he, "why I wish to speak to him." In short, he was so urgent that he was admitted.
"My lord," said he, "may heaven crown your days with glory and magnificence! Your son-in-law is a rascal."
"A rascal! How dare you say so? Is that the way to speak to a Prince of Cashmere of the son-in-law he has chosen?"
"Yes, a rascal," said Rustem. "And to prove it to your Highness, here is your diamond, which I have brought back to you."
The Prince, in much amazement, compared the two diamonds and, as he knew nothing about gems, he could not tell which was the true one.
"Here are two diamonds," said he, "but I have only one daughter. I am in a strange dilemma!"
Then he sent for Barbabou, and asked him whether he had not deceived him. Barbabou swore that he had bought the diamond of an Armenian. Rustem did not say from whom he had got his, but he proposed, as a solution, that his Highness should allow him and his rival to fight in single combat on the spot.
"It is not enough that your son-in-law should possess a diamond," said he, "he ought also to show proof of valour. Do you not think it fair that the one who kills the other should marry the Princess?"
"Very good," said the Prince; "it will be a fine show for all the court. You two shall fight it out at once. The conqueror shall have the armour of the conquered man, after the custom of Cashmere: and he shall marry the Princess."
The rivals immediately descended to the palace court. On the stairs they saw a magpie and a raven. The raven cried; "Fight it out, fight it out!" the magpie, "Do not fight!" This made the Prince laugh. The rivals scarcely noticed the two birds.
The combat began. All the courtiers stood round them in a circle. The Princess still shut herself up in her tower, and would see nothing of it. She had no suspicion that her lover could be in Cashmere, and she had such a horror of Barbabou that she would not look on. The fight went off as well as possible. Barbabou was left stone dead, and the populace were delighted, for he was ugly and Rustem very handsome—a fact which always turns the scale of public favour.
The conqueror put on the dead man's coat of mail, his scarf and his helmet, and approached the window of his mistress to the sound of trumpets, followed by all the Court. Every one was shouting: "Fair Princess, come and see your handsome bridegroom who has killed his hideous rival!" and the ladies repeated the words. The Princess unfortunately looked out of the window, and seeing the armour of the man she abhorred, she flew in despair to the Chinese trunk, and took out the fatal javelin, which darted, at her wish, to pierce her dear Rustem through a joint in his cuirass. He gave a bitter cry, and in that cry the Princess thought that she recognized the voice of her hapless lover.
She flew into the courtyard, her hair all disheveled, death in her eyes and in her heart. Rustem was lying in her father's arms. She saw him! What a moment, what a sight! Who can express the anguish, the tenderness, the horror of that meeting? She threw herself upon him and embraced him.
"These," she cried, "are the first and last kisses of your lover and destroyer." Then snatching the dart from his wound, she plunged it into her own heart, and died on the breast of the lover she adored.
Her father, horror-stricken and heartbroken, strove in vain to bring her back to life; she was no more. He broke the fatal weapon into fragments, and flung away the ill-starred diamonds: and while preparations were proceeding for his daughter's funeral instead of her wedding, he had the bleeding but still living Rustem carried into his palace.
Rustem was laid upon a couch. The first thing he saw, one on each side of his death-bed, were Topaz and Ebony. Surprise gave him strength. "Cruel that you were," said he; "why did you desert me? The Princess might still perhaps be living if you had been at hand!"
"I have never left you for a moment," said Topaz.
"I have been always at your side," said Ebony.
"What do you mean? Why do you insult me in my last moments?" replied Rustem, in a weak voice.
"Believe me, it is true," said Topaz. "You know I never approved of this ill-advised journey, for I foresaw its disastrous end. I was the eagle which struggled with the vulture, and which the vulture plucked; I was the elephant which made off with your baggage to compel you to return home; I was the striped ass which would fain have carried you back to your father; it was I who led your horses astray, who produced the torrent which you could not cross, who raised the mountain which checked your unlucky advance; I was the physician who advised your return to your native air, and the magpie which urged you not to fight."
"I," said Ebony, "was the vulture who plucked the eagle, the rhinoceros which thrust its horn into the elephant, the peasant who beat the ass, the merchant who gave you the camels to hasten you to your ruin; I raised the bridge you crossed; I bored the mountains for you to pass; I was the physician who advised you to proceed, and the raven which encouraged you to fight."
"Alas! And remember the Oracle," added Topaz; "If you turn to the east you will turn to the west."
"Yes, here they bury the dead with their faces turned westward," said Ebony. "The Oracle was plain; why did not you understand it? You possessed and you possessed not; for you had the diamond, but it was a false one, and you did not know it; you got the best of it in battle, but you also got the worst, for you must die; you are Rustem, but you will soon cease to be so. The Oracle is fulfilled."
Even as he spoke two white wings appeared on the shoulders of Topaz, and two black wings on those of Ebony.
"What is this that I see?" cried Rustem. And Topaz and Ebony replied: "We are your two genies." "I," added Topaz, "am your good genie."
"And you, Ebony, with your black wings, are apparently my evil genie."
"As you say," replied Ebony.
Then suddenly everything vanished. Rustem found himself in his father's house, which he had not quitted, and in his bed where he had been sleeping just an hour.
He awoke with a start, bathed in sweat and greatly scared. He shouted, he called, he rang. His servant Topaz hurried up in his night-cap, yawning.
"Am I dead or alive?" cried Rustem. "Will the beautiful Princess of Cashmere recover?"
"Is your Highness dreaming?" said Topaz calmly.
"And what," cried Rustem, "has become of that cruel Ebony, with his two black wings? Is it his fault that I am dying so dreadful a death?"
"Sir, I left him upstairs, snoring. Shall I call him down?"
"The villain! He has been tormenting me these six months. It was he who took me to that fatal fair at Cabul; it was he who stole the diamond the Princess gave me; he is the sole cause of my journey, of the death of my Princess, and of the javelin-wound of which I am dying in the prime of youth."
"Make yourself easy," said Topaz. "You have never been to Cabul. There is no Princess of Cashmere; the Prince has but two sons, and they are now at school. You never had any diamond. The Princess cannot be dead since she never was born; and you are perfectly sound and well."
"What! Is it not true that you became in turn an eagle, an elephant, an ass, a doctor, and a magpie, to protect me from ill?"
"It is all a dream, sir. Our ideas are no more under our control when sleeping than when awake. The Almighty sent that string of ideas through your head, as it would seem, to give you some lesson which you may lay to heart."
"You are making game of me," said Rustem. "How long have I been sleeping?"
"Sir, you have only slept one hour."
"Well, I cannot understand it," said Rustem.
But perhaps he took the lesson to heart, and learned to doubt whether all he wished for was right and good for him.
Once upon a time there was an Emperor who had three sons and three daughters. As he was very old, his last hour drew nigh. He therefore called his children to his bedside and laid earnest command upon his sons to give their sisters, without hesitation, to the first suitors who asked for them in marriage. "Marry them off," he said to the sons, "or my curse will be upon you!" These were his last words.
[Footnote 6: From "The Russian Grandmother's Wonder Tales," copyright, 1906, by Charles Scribner's Sons.]
After his death, day passed quietly after day for a while. Then one evening there came a loud knocking at the door. The whole palace began to rock amid a wild roaring, howling, crashing; the castle was bathed in a sea of flame. Every heart was terrified, and trembling took possession of every soul.
Suddenly a voice cried, "Open the door, ye princes!"
Up spoke the Emperor's eldest son, "Do not open!" And the second said, "On no account open!" But the youngest said, "Then I will open the door myself."
He sprang up and drew the bolts. Hardly was the door opened when a fearful Being rushed in, the outline of whose form was hidden in encircling flames.
"I am come," he exclaimed, "to take your eldest sister for my wife, and that at once. So give a short answer—yes or no; I insist upon it!"
Said the eldest brother, "I will not give her to you. Why should I, when I know neither who nor whence you are? You come here by night, demand my sister's hand upon the instant, and I do not even hear which way I am to turn when I wish to visit her."
Said the second brother, "Nor do I permit you to take away my sister thus in the dead of night."
But the youngest interposed, "Then I will give her away if you two refuse. Have you already forgotten our father's command?" And taking his sister by the hand he gave her to the stranger, saying, "May she live happily with you and be ever faithful!"
As the sister crossed the threshold every one in the building fell to the ground in fear and horror. It lightened, it thundered, it crashed, it quaked, the whole fortress swayed heavily, as if heaven and earth were falling together. Gradually the uproar died away, and the rosy eastern light announced the coming morning.
As soon as day had broken the brothers searched for the traces which they supposed would have been left by their tremendous nocturnal visitor; but not a trace, not a footprint had he left behind. All was swept away.
On the following night, at the selfsame hour, the selfsame flashing, crashing din was heard around the imperial fortress, and a voice without cried loudly, "Open the door, you princes!"
Paralyzed with terror, they threw open the door and a fearful Form rushed in, crying in a loud voice, "Give me here the maiden, your second sister! I have come to marry her!"
Said the eldest brother, "I will not give you my sister!"
Said the second, "I will not let my sister—"
But the youngest broke in with, "Then I will! Will you never remember what our father commanded?"
He took his sister by the hand and led her to the wooer. "Take her; she will be happy with you and always good."
At this the powerful apparition vanished, and the maiden with him.
As soon as morning dawned the brothers sought around the castle for traces of the direction which the apparition had taken; but they found nothing under the blessed sun, nor was there the slightest clue from which they could make any sort of guess any more than if no one had been there!
On the third night, at the same hour, the whole castle was again shaken to the foundation by a horrible uproar and earthquake, and a voice called out, "Open the door, ye princes!"
The Emperor's sons sprang nimbly to their feet and drew the bolts, upon which a monstrous Form entered, exclaiming "We are come to demand the hand of your youngest sister!"
"Never!" shrieked the eldest and second brothers with one voice. "We will not let this one go away thus by night. Surely we must at least know of this our youngest sister whom she marries and where she goes, that we may be able to visit her!"
But up spoke the youngest brother, "Then I will give her away if you refuse. Have you quite forgotten what our father charged us on his dying bed? It is not so long ago."
He took the sister by the hand and said, "Here she is; take her home and live happily and joyfully with her!"
In a twinkling the terrible Being disappeared in the midst of a fearful uproar.
When the morning dawned the brothers felt oppressed by anxiety, being all uncertain as to the fate of their sisters. After a long interval, during which no light had been thrown upon this matter, the three brothers took counsel together:
"Good heavens, did ever one know of anything so mysterious? What has become of our sisters? We have not the least idea of their abiding-place, nor any clue which can lead to their discovery."
At length one said to the others, "Let us go forth to seek our sisters."
So the three brothers made ready without losing a moment. They took money enough for a long journey and went out into the wide world to seek their sisters.
In the course of their wanderings they lost their way among the mountains, where they wandered for a whole day. When night fell they decided, on account of their horses, to encamp near a piece of water.
And so they did. They reached the shore of a lake, pitched their tents, and sat down to supper. When they lay down to sleep the eldest brother said, "You may sleep, but I will stand guard."
So the two younger brothers went peacefully to sleep, while the eldest brother kept watch. At a certain hour of the night the lake became agitated with a swaying motion which startled the watcher not a little. He soon observed a shapeless form arising out of the midst of the water and rushing straight toward him. It was a frightful monster of a Dragon, with two great flapping ears, which was rushing so fiercely upon him. The Prince bravely drew his sword, and seizing the Dragon, cut off his head. Then he sliced off the ears and put them into his wallet, and threw the head and the body back into the lake.
Meantime the day had dawned, and the brothers still lay in profound slumber, little dreaming of their eldest brother's heroic exploit. He now waked them, but said not a syllable about his nocturnal adventure. They left that place and continued their journey, and when twilight began to fall they once more agreed to seek a halting-place near some piece of water. But they were much terrified to find themselves quite lost in a lonely wilderness. At last, however, they came upon a tiny lake, where they decided to spend the night. They kindled a fire, unpacked cooking utensils and food, and took their evening meal. After that they disposed themselves to sleep. Then said the second brother, "Do you two go to rest; I will mount guard to-night."
The two brothers therefore lay down to sleep, but the third cheerfully sat up and kept watch. Suddenly a rustling sound from the lake met his ears, and he saw a sight which curdled the blood in his veins. A two-headed Dragon rushed tumultuously upon the brothers as if to annihilate them all three.
Quick as thought the watcher sprang up, drew his glittering sword, avoided the Dragon's attack, and cut off his two heads. Then he sliced off the ears and put them into his wallet, throwing the other parts of the monster back into the lake. The brothers knew nothing of the affair, for both slept soundly until dawn.
When day broke the second brother called to them, "Wake up, brothers, the morning dawns!"
Immediately they sprang up, packed their goods, and set forth upon their way; but they had not the least idea where they were or in what country.
A great fear overwhelmed them that they might perish of hunger in this wilderness, and they besought God to guide them at least to some inhabited village or city, or to permit them to meet some human being, for they had already wandered three days in this inhospitable wilderness without coming to the end or finding any way out.
It was rather early in the day when they came to a pretty large lake and decided to go no farther, but to make their camp on this lake-side. For they said, "If we go farther we shall very probably not find any more water near which to make our camp."
They remained, therefore, in this place, built a great fire, supped, and made ready to sleep. Then said the youngest brother.
"Do you two go to rest. I will take the watch to-night."
So the two lay down and soon fell asleep, but the youngest brother kept a sharp lookout, and often threw a glance over the shining surface of the lake.
Thus passed away a portion of the night, when suddenly the lake boiled up, surged, foaming, upon the fire and half-extinguished it. But the watcher whipped out his sword and took his position close to the fire. Suddenly a three-headed Dragon rushed forth and made as if to kill the brothers.
Now was the hero-spirit of the youth tested. He waked not his brothers, but went forth alone to meet the Dragon. Three times he raised his sword, and each time he smote off one of the monster's heads. Then he sliced off the ears, and threw the shapeless remains into the water.
While this tremendous conflict was going on the fire died out, having been flooded by the water. The Prince would not waken his brothers, although he had no tinder-box of his own to rekindle the flame, but resolved to search around a little in the wilderness in hope of stumbling upon some one who could help him.
But nowhere was there a mortal soul! At last he climbed into a high tree and looked around in all directions to see what he might see.
As he was thus gazing far and wide his eyes were suddenly attracted by a flash of light which seemed to be very near him. He descended the tree and went in the direction of the light; hoping to get some fire wherewith to rekindle the fire for his brothers.
He went on for a long stretch, the light seeming always to be just before him, when suddenly he found himself standing before a cave in a rock in which nine Giants, gathered around an immense fire, were roasting two men upon a spit, one on one side of the fire, the other on the other. An enormous copper caldron, full to the brim with human flesh, was bubbling over the fire.
The imperial Prince was horrified at this sight. He would have turned back, but whither should he go? Where was there a way of escape for him? He quickly recovered his self-possession, however, and cried out, "Good-morning, valiant comrades, I have long been seeking you!"
They received him most cordially, answering, "God be with thee, if thou art a true comrade."
He replied, "Indeed I am, and shall be all my life long. I would risk my head for you."
"All right," they answered. "If you wish to be one of us, are you ready to eat human flesh and take a share in our Adventures?"
"Yes, that I will," said the Prince. "What you do, that will I do also."
"Faith, then all is well!" they said. "Sit down among us."
They settled themselves around the fire. The caldron was taken off, its contents served, and the meal began. The Prince received his share, but he knew how to manage, and, instead of eating, he slyly threw the meat, bit by bit, behind him. He did the same with the roast. Then the Giants said:
"Come, now, we must go a-hunting, for we must eat to-morrow as well as to-day."
So the nine Giants set out, with the Prince for a tenth.
"Come," they said to him, "not far from here is a town in which reigns an Emperor. His city has fed us for several years."
As they drew near to the city they pulled up two fir-trees by the roots and carried them along. When they reached the town they set one of the trees against the wall and called to the Prince, "Come on, climb up the wall here, and we will hand you the second tree. Seize it by the point and let it down on the other side, but keep hold of the top so that we may climb down by the trunk."
The Prince accordingly scrambled up, but on receiving the second tree he called out, "I don't know where to stand it; I am not familiar with the place and dare not shove it over. Do one of you come up and show me, and then I will make it all right."
One of the Giants climbed up to him, seized the fir-tree by the point, and let it down on the other side of the wall. As he stood thus bent over, the Prince drew his sword and struck off his head, and the dead Giant tumbled off the wall into the city.
Then the Prince cried to the others, "All right! Come on now, one at a time, that I may help you along in the same way."
One after another unsuspiciously climbed up, only to meet death at the hand of the Prince. When he had made an end of all the nine he let himself down by the fir-tree into the city, which he explored in every direction. No sound of human voice reached his ear. All was a drear, horrible desolation. "Has the whole population been robbed and murdered by the Giants?" he thought to himself.
For a long time he wandered about the desolate city, until he came to a very high tower, from one window of which shone out the light of a taper. He threw open the door, rushed up the tower stair, and hastened straight to that room.
On the threshold he stood still in amazement. The room was richly hung and decorated with gold, silk, and velvet, and not a soul within except a maiden who lay upon a couch, out-stretched in deep slumber. The Prince was rooted to the spot at the sight of the maiden, for she was wonderfully beautiful. But at that moment he became aware of a great serpent which, sliding along the wall, stretched out its head directly over the head of the maiden, coiling itself up in readiness to spring and strike her upon the brow, between the eyes.
Then the Prince sprang quickly with his pocket-knife, which in a trice he had drawn from his pocket, and pinned the serpent's head to the wall. Then saying these words: "God grant that no hand but mine may draw this knife out from the wall," he went quickly away. He climbed up by one fir-tree and down by the other, and so got over the wall. Arrived at the Giants' cave, he took some fire and ran back to his brothers, who were still buried in profound slumber. As he kindled the fire day began to dawn in the east. He wakened the brothers, and they set forth upon their journey.
That same day they came to the highway leading to the before-mentioned city. A mighty Emperor reigned there who used to go about the city every morning shedding bitter tears because his people were exterminated and eaten by the Giants, and because of his constant fear that his only daughter would fall a sacrifice to their gluttony. On this morning he was going about the city as usual. It lay empty and deserted; the inhabitants had dwindled away to a mere remnant; most of them had found a grave in the giants' maws.
As I have said, the Emperor was thus reviewing his city when suddenly his eyes fell upon the uprooted fir-tree which still leaned against the wall, and as he drew nearer he beheld a wonderful sight; there lay the nine Giants, the very pests of the city, with their heads all cut off!
This sight gave the King unspeakable joy. The people also gathered together to pray God that blessing and happiness might descend upon the giant-slayer. At that very moment a servant came from the imperial citadel to say that a serpent had nearly been the death of the Emperor's daughter. Upon this the Emperor betook himself straightway to the citadel, and to the very chamber of his daughter. Arrived there, he saw upon the wall the impaled serpent, and tried with his own hand to draw out the knife, but in vain.
Then the Emperor sent a proclamation through his whole empire: "Whoever has slain the Giants and impaled the serpent, let him make himself known, that the Emperor may richly reward him and bestow upon him the hand of his daughter."
This proclamation was issued in every province of the empire. The Emperor also gave command that great inns should be erected upon the principal highways, where all travellers should be stopped and asked whether they knew who had overcome the giants; and whoever should discover the man, let him hasten with utmost speed to the Emperor to receive a rich reward.
According to the imperial proclamation, great inns were erected upon the principal highways, and every traveller was stopped, examined, and the whole affair explained to him.
After a while the three Princes who were seeking their sisters came to pass the night at one of these inns. After supper the landlord joined the company, and began to boast of his wonderful exploits. At last he turned to the three brothers with the question, "And what doughty deeds have you done up to this time?"
Then the eldest brother began, "As I and my brothers were upon our travels it came to pass one night that we made our halt on the border of a lake in a great wilderness. While my brothers were asleep and I keeping watch, a Dragon came up out of the lake to destroy me. I drew my sword out of the scabbard and struck off his head. If you don't believe me, here are his ears." And he drew the ears out of his wallet and threw them upon the table.
When the second brother heard this, he began, "I had the watch on the second night, and I killed a two-headed Dragon. If you don't believe me, here are the ears which I cut from his two heads for a witness." He said it and showed the two pairs of ears.
The youngest brother heard the whole in silence. The landlord now turned to him.
"By heaven, youngster, your brothers are valiant heroes! Come let us hear if you can also boast of any doughty deeds!"
Hesitatingly the youngest began his story: "Well, I also did a trifle. It was on the third night, beside the lake in the wilderness. You, my brothers, were asleep. I kept watch. At a certain hour of the night the lake surged up and a three-headed Dragon arose from it, who would have annihilated us. Then I drew a sword and cut off all three of his heads. If you don't believe it, here are the three pairs of ears!"
Upon this the two brothers were dumb with astonishment. But the youngest went on with his story: "In the meantime the fire had gone out, and I went forth to seek a light. While straying around among the hills I stumbled upon nine giants in a cave"; and so he went on and told all his adventures in order, and every one was struck with amazement at the wonderful tale.
No sooner had the landlord heard the story than he ran secretly to the Emperor and told him the whole affair. The Emperor gave him a great sum of money, and sent his people at once to bring the three princes before him.
When they came into the Emperor's presence he put the following question to the youngest: "Is it you who performed the wonders in our city, killing the Giants and saving my only daughter from destruction?"
"Yes, it was I, mighty Emperor," replied the Prince. Here-upon the Emperor married his daughter to the young Prince and raised him to the highest office in the kingdom.
Then the Emperor said to the two elder brothers, "If it please you to remain in my empire, I will give you each a wife and will permit you to build strongholds for yourselves."
But they told him they were already married, and explained that they had undertaken this journey merely to seek out their sisters. When the Emperor heard this he detained only the youngest brother, his son-in-law, and to the two other brothers he gave two mules laden with gold. So the two brothers returned home to their own kingdom.
Still the youngest brother thought continually of his sisters, and kept always in mind the hope of yet seeking them out But on the other hand he was pained at the thought of parting from his young wife, and besides he knew that the Emperor would never consent to his leaving him. So he was continually racked with anxiety about his sisters.
One day the Emperor went hunting, and before setting out he said to his son-in-law, "Do you remain in the castle during my absence. I give to you nine keys which you must keep carefully by you. I give you free leave to open three or four rooms. You will find in them silver and gold in abundance; there is also no lack of weapons, or of any kind of treasure. You may even, if you feel inclined, open eight of the rooms. But beware of unlocking the ninth. Leave that one alone; for," he added, "if you do not it will be the worse for you." Upon this the Emperor departed, leaving his son-in-law at home alone.
Hardly was the Emperor gone when the Prince began to open one door after another, until he had examined eight rooms in succession. His eyes beheld in them treasures of all kinds. When at last he came to the door of the ninth room he said to himself, "I have seen and done so many wonderful things, and shall it be forbidden me to enter a certain room?"
So he unlocked the door and went in. What a sight! There was a man whose legs up to his knees and whose arms up to the elbows were incased in iron; from his neck hung heavy iron chains, the ends of which were fastened to stakes driven into the floor on all sides, holding him so securely that he could not stir. Before him a stream of water gushed from a golden vessel and flowed into a golden basin which stood near; beside it was a golden jug, beautifully adorned with jewels. The man longed to drink the water, but he could not reach the jug.
When the imperial Prince saw this he started backward; but the fettered man cried, "Oh, come to me, I beseech you, in the name of the living God!"
The Prince drew nearer, and the man continued, "Oh, do a pious act; let me drain a jug of water! Be assured I will reward you for it with an additional life."
The Prince considered the proposition. "Can there be anything better for me than to secure for myself an additional life?" He took the jug, filled it, and raised it to the man's lips, who emptied it at a single draught. Upon this the Prince asked him, "In the name of heaven, who are you?"
The man answered, "My name is Steelpacha."
The prince now turned toward the door, but the man implored him, "Give me another jug of water, and I will give you a second life."
The Prince thought, "He will give me a second life; I have one into the bargain. This will be a prodigy indeed!" and he filled the jug again and put it to the man's lips.
He then turned away and already held the door-latch in his hand when Steelpacha called to him, "Oh, sir, come back to me! You have twice acted nobly by me; prove yourself a man a third time and I will give you a third life. Take this jug, fill it to the brim, and pour it over my head; and for this labour of love I will give you a third life."
When the Prince heard this he turned back, took the jug, filled it with water, and poured it over the man's head. The moment the water touched him the chains about his neck fell asunder and all the bonds which held him were unloosed. Quick as lightning Steelpacha sprang up, spread a pair of wings, flew out of the window, snatched up the Princess, the wife of his deliverer, took flight with her under his wing, and in a moment had disappeared from view. That was a prodigy indeed!
The Prince now looked forward with deepest dread to the Emperor's return. However, when the Emperor came home, the Prince told the whole story exactly as it had happened. The Emperor was beside himself with grief. "Why did you do thus?" said he reproachfully. "Did I not expressly forbid you to enter the ninth room?"
The Prince answered soothingly, "Don't be angry with me. I will go at once to seek Steelpacha and rescue my wife from him."
The Emperor tried to dissuade him from this plan. "Don't do that," said he; "you shall on no account move a step from this place. You have no idea who Steelpacha is. Many an army and much treasure did I waste before I got him in my power. So remain quietly with me. I will provide another wife for you. And don't be unhappy; I love you as my own son."
But the Prince was deaf to all these persuasions, and adhered to his first resolution. He provided himself with the necessary money, mounted his horse, and went forth into the world to seek Steelpacha. For a long time he wandered about, and at last he arrived at a city. He was gazing around with some curiosity, when suddenly a woman called to him from a balcony, "You Prince, get down from your horse and come into the court!"
As the Prince entered the court the woman came to meet him. He looked narrowly at her and recognized his eldest sister. They flew into each other's arms and lavished sweet kisses upon each other.
The sister was the first to speak. "Come out upon the balcony with me, brother."
When they were upon the balcony the Prince asked his sister whom she had married, and she answered, "I am married to the Emperor of the Dragons. My husband is himself a Dragon. So, brother, it would be worth your while to hide, for my husband often says he would cut his brothers-in-law in small bits if he ever laid eyes upon them. Let me first question him; if he promises to do you no harm I will tell him of your arrival."
So said and so done. The sister concealed her brother and his horse. The evening drew on. The Dragon's supper was ready; they were awaiting his arrival, when at last he came. When he flew in the whole earth was bathed in blinding light; but he had hardly entered when he called to his wife:
"Wife, I smell men's bones. Who is here? Tell me quick!"
"No one is here," she answered.
"That is not possible," said he.
Upon this the wife said, "I want to ask you a question, and do you answer me truly and honestly. Would you do any harm to my brothers if they happened to come here?"
The Dragon-emperor answered, "I would have the eldest and the second killed and roasted, but I would do nothing to the youngest."
Upon this she said, "My youngest brother, your brother-in-law, is arrived."
When the Dragon-emperor heard this he cried, "Out with him, then!" And when the sister brought her brother from his hiding-place the Emperor ran to meet him and showered kisses upon him.
"Welcome here, brother-in-law!"
"God be with you, sister's husband!"
"Where were you hiding?"
"Here I am!" And he told him the object of his journey, from beginning to end.
The Dragon-emperor said to him, "You are running the greatest risk, God help you! The day before yesterday Steelpacha flew past with your wife. I was awaiting him with seven thousand dragons, but we could not overcome him. I adjure you, let that fiend alone. I will give you money to your heart's desire; just go quietly home."
But the Prince would not hear a word of this advice, and emphatically declared that he would continue his journey on the morrow. When the Emperor saw that he could not prevent him, nor induce him to turn back, he drew a feather out of his wing and gave it to his brother-in-law, with these words:
"Give good heed to what I now tell you. Take this feather of mine, and if you come across Steelpacha and find yourself in great danger, then burn my feather; that very moment I will come to your aid with the whole strength of my army."
The Prince concealed the feather in a safe place and went his way. He travelled on and on until he reached a second great city. Here again, as he was going through the city, a woman called to him from a balcony.
"Ho, there, you Prince, dismount from your horse and come into the court!"
The Prince rode into the court. Behold, who comes to meet him? It is his second sister! They rush into each other's arms and kiss each other heartily. Then the sister led her brother into the castle.
When she had put the horse into the stable she asked the object of his journey, and he told her the whole story of his adventures, finally asking her, "And whom have you married, dear sister?"
She answered, "I am married to the Emperor of the Falcons. He will come home to-night. But I must carefully conceal you, for he is furious against my brothers." So saying, she concealed the Prince.
In a little while the Falcon-emperor came home, and the whole city quaked with the tumult of his approach. Supper was served at once, but not before he had cried to his wife, "I smell men's flesh!"
The wife answered, "What are you thinking of, husband?"
At last, after talking for some time of this thing and that, she asked him, "Would you do any harm to my brothers if they were to come here?"
The Emperor said, "It would surely go hard with the eldest and the second, but I would do nothing to the youngest." Then she told him of her youngest brother's arrival.
The Falcon-emperor commanded his wife to bring her brother before him, and as soon as he beheld him he fell upon his neck and kissed him. "Welcome, dear brother-in-law!"
"A lucky and joyful meeting, dear sister's husband!" answered the Prince; upon which they sat down to supper.
After supper the Emperor asked his brother-in-law concerning the object of his journey, and the Prince replied that he was seeking Steelpacha, and told him all his adventures. But the Emperor began to counsel him.
"Give up your journey," said he. "Just let me tell you something about Steelpacha. That very day on which he stole your wife I was awaiting him with five thousand falcons, and waged a fearful battle with him. Blood flowed knee-deep around us, yet we could not prevail against him. And how shall you, a single man, overmaster him? So I give you this well-meant advice: Go back home. So much of my treasure as your heart desires is yours; take it and go."
But the Prince answered, "Hearty thanks for your offer, but go back with my task unperformed I will not. No, never! I must yet find Steelpacha." For he thought to himself, "Why should I not? Have I not three lives?"
When the Falcon-emperor became convinced that he could not move him from his purpose he drew a feather out of his wing and gave it to him, with these words, "Here, take this feather of mine, and if you come into great danger strike a fire and burn it I will come at once to your aid with all my forces."
So the Prince took the feather and set forth to seek Steelpacha.
For a long time he went up and down through the wide world, until at last he reached a third city. He had hardly entered it when a woman called to him from a balcony, "Dismount and come into the court!"
The Prince turned his horse and rode into the court. Behold, there was his youngest sister! They fell into each other's arms and lavished kisses upon each other. She led the horse into the stable, the brother into the castle. Then the Prince asked, "Sister, whom have you married?"
And she answered, "My consort is the Emperor of the Eagles; it is he whom I have married."
When the Eagle-emperor came home that night his wife met him affectionately; but he paid no attention to her greeting, but asked her, "What man has come into my castle? Tell me at once!"
She answered, "There is no one here," and they sat down to supper. During supper she asked him, as if by chance, "Would you do any harm to my brothers if they should suddenly arrive?"
The Emperor answered, "The eldest and the second I should kill without hesitation, but not the youngest. On the contrary, I would hasten to his aid at any time, as far as it was in my power."
Then she said to the Emperor, "My youngest brother is come to pay us a visit."
The Emperor commanded that he should be presented at once, went to meet him and greeted him with "Welcome, dear brother-in-law!"
The other answered, "A lucky and joyful meeting, dear sister's husband!"
So they sat down to the table.
After supper they talked of one thing and another, and at last the Prince told them that he was seeking for Steelpacha. When the Eagle-emperor heard this he said everything he could think of to dissuade him from this idea.
"Dear brother-in-law," said he, "leave that fiend alone and give up your journey. Stay, rather, here with me; you shall be made happy in every respect."
But the Prince paid no heed to his words, and as soon as morning dawned he made ready and set off to seek Steelpacha. But before he went away the Eagle-emperor, who saw that he could not turn him from his purpose, drew forth a feather from his wing and said:
"Take this feather, brother-in-law, and if ever you are in need or danger, strike a fire and burn it. I will come at once with my eagles to help you."
The Prince put the feather in his pocket and set forth.
Thus he roved around the world from city to city, going ever farther and farther till at last one day he discovered his wife in a cavern. She was not a little surprised to see him, and cried out to him, "In the name of heaven, husband, how came you here?"
He hastily told her his adventures, and added, "Wife, my wife! Quick, let us flee!"
But she hesitated. "Where shall we go, since Steelpacha can overtake us in a moment? He will kill you on the spot, and bring me back here again."
But the Prince, being mindful of the three lives which Steelpacha had given him, still coaxed his wife to flee, and they set out. Hardly had they started when Steelpacha heard of it, gave rapid chase, and overtook them.
"Oho, little Prince!" he cried out, "you would steal my wife, would you?"
He tore her away from the Prince, and continued, "This time I give you your life, for I have not forgotten that I promised you three lives; but go now, and never come back again after her, for if you do your life is at stake."
With these words Steelpacha took the woman away, while the Prince remained alone, in doubt what to do next. At last he resolved to go after his wife again.
When he arrived near the cavern he waited for his opportunity till Steelpacha should be gone away; and once more he fled, taking his wife with him.
Steelpacha soon heard of it, pursued after them, overtook them, fitted an arrow to his bow, and cried out, "Would you rather that I kill you with this arrow, or shall I cut you down with my sword?"
The Prince began to beg with all his might, and Steelpacha said to him, "This second time I give you your life, but let me tell you one thing: don't you try again to carry away this woman, for I will not again give you your life, but will kill you on the spot as dead as a mouse."
With these words he seized the woman and carried her away, while the Prince again remained alone, always planning how to rescue his wife. Finally he said to himself, "After all, why should I be afraid? I still have two lives—that one which he gave me and the one I had before."
So he resolved to go back to his wife the next day when Steelpacha was absent.
"Come," he said to her, "let us flee!" She objected that it was useless to flee, since they would be at once overtaken; but he constrained her to go with him.
But very soon Steelpacha overtook them, and cried out to the Prince, "Wait, just wait! I will never forgive you this!" The Prince was terrified and began to beg for mercy, but Steelpacha silenced him.
"You remember that I gave you three lives? All right; now I give you the third, and you have nothing more to expect from me. So go home in peace, and beware of hazarding the life which God lent you."
When the Prince saw that he was powerless against the might of Steelpacha he turned back homeward with a heavy heart. Suddenly he remembered what his brothers-in-law had said to him when they gave him the feathers, and he said to himself, "Come what come may, I will go once more to rescue my wife, and in case of need I will burn the feathers and call my brothers-in-law to my assistance."
So said and so done.
He went back to the cavern and saw his wife in Steelpacha's arms. He waited around till the latter had gone away, and then showed himself to his wife. She was not a little frightened, and cried out in terror, "In the name of heaven! Is life so hateful that you come back again for me?"
He calmed her and told her that his brothers-in-law had promised to help him in utmost need. "And therefore," said he, "I am come for you once more; make ready to flee."
She did so, and they hastened away; but Steelpacha soon got news of their flight, and cried to them from afar, "Just wait, little Prince; you haven't escaped me yet!"
But as soon as the Prince saw Steelpacha he drew the three feathers and his tinder-box out of his pocket, struck a light, and kindled the feathers one by one. But while they were kindling Steelpacha overtook him, drew his sword, and cleft the Prince in half.
That very moment what a prodigy occurred! There came flying the Dragon-emperor with his dragons, the Falcon-emperor with his falcons, and the Eagle-emperor with all his eagles, and waged battle with Steelpacha. Blood flowed in streams, but fortune favoured Steelpacha, and he made off safely, carrying his prize, the Princess, with him.
The three emperors now took counsel over their brother-in-law's body, and decided to recall him to life. So they summoned three of the swiftest dragons and asked which one of them could most speedily bring some water from the river Jordan. The first one said, "I can do it within half an hour;" the second said, "I can do it in a quarter of an hour;" the third said, "I will have it here in nine minutes." The emperors said to this one, "Then set out, Dragon, as fast as possible."
The Dragon put forth all his impetuous strength, and truly within nine minutes he brought back the water from the Jordan. The emperors took the water, poured it over the two portions of the Prince's body and scarcely had the water touched them when the young man sprang upon his feet, safe and sound, as if nothing had happened to him.
The emperors then counselled him, "Now go back home, since you have been restored to life!"
But the Prince answered that he must once more try his luck, and, by one means or another, free his wife from the clutches of that fiend. His imperial brothers-in-law remonstrated:
"Do give it up! You will surely perish this time, for you have no life at command except the one God lent you!"
But for all answer the Prince remained dumb.
Then the emperors said, "All right; if you are bent upon trying again, come what come may, at least don't attempt to get your wife away by flight, but beg her to wheedle Steelpacha into telling her wherein his strength lies. Then bring us word, that we may help you to get the best of him."
So the Prince stole secretly to his wife and told her how she should coax Steelpacha to tell her the secret of his strength. Then he betook himself to some place of safety.
When Steelpacha came home the Princess beset him with questions. "In heaven's name, do tell me wherein your strength lies!"
Steelpacha answered, "My pretty wife, my strength lies in my sword."
Then the Princess prayed to the sword as if to God. At sight of this Steelpacha burst into a mocking laugh and said to her, "Oh, you simple woman! my strength lies not in my sword but in my arrow."
Therefore she fell upon her knees before the arrow and began to pray to it. Then Steelpacha said, "My wife, some one must have well taught you how to coax from me the secret of my strength. If your husband were alive I should say it was he who had taught you."
But she swore by body and soul that no one had taught her, no one had been there.
After several days her husband came again, and she told him that thus far it had been impossible to learn from Steelpacha wherein his strength lay. But the Prince answered, "Try again," and went away.
When Steelpacha came home she asked him anew wherein his strength lay. Upon which he answered her, "Since I see that you have a high respect for my strength, I will confess the truth about it."
Then he told her: "Far from here is a mountain-peak. On this mountain-peak lives a Fox. The Fox has a heart in which a bird is concealed; this bird holds my strength. But that Fox is very hard to catch, for he has many transformations."
The next day, when Steelpacha was away from home, the Prince came again to his wife to learn what he had told her. She repeated everything carefully, and the Prince went straight away to his brothers-in-law with the much-longed-for news. They received it with joy, and at once set out with the Prince to go to that mountain-peak.
Arrived there, they set the eagles upon the Fox, which immediately took refuge in a lake and there changed himself into a gull with six wings. But the falcons gave battle to the gull and drove him thence. He flew high amid the clouds, the falcons ever following. In a trice the gull changed himself into a fox again and tried to escape into the earth; but, falling into the power of the eagles and all the rest of the mighty host, he was surrounded and taken prisoner.
Then the emperors commanded that the Fox should be cut open and his heart taken out. A fire was kindled, the heart cut open, and the bird taken out and cast into the flames. As soon as the bird was burned Steelpacha vanished forever.
So the Prince took his wife and went happily home.
The Buried Moon
Long ago in my grandmother's time, the Carland was all in bogs, great pools of black water, and creeping trickles of green water, and squishy mools which squirted when you stepped on them.
Well, granny used to say how long before her time the Moon herself was once dead and buried in the marshes, and as she used to tell me, I'll tell you all about it.
The Moon up yonder shone and shone just as she does now, and when she shone she lighted up the bogpools, so that one could walk about almost as safe as in the day.
But when she didn't shine, out came the Things that dwelt in the darkness and went about seeking to do evil and harm; Bogles and Crawling Horrors, all came out when the Moon didn't shine.
Well, the Moon heard of this, and being kind and good—as she surely is, shining for us in the night instead of taking her natural rest—she was main troubled. "I'll see for myself, I will," said she, "maybe it's not so bad as folks make out."
Sure enough, at the month's end down she stepped, wrapped up in a black cloak, and a black hood over her yellow shining hair. Straight she went to the bog edge and looked about her. Water here and water there; waving tussocks and trembling mools, and great black snags all twisted and bent. Before her all was dark—dark but for the glimmer of the stars in the pools, and the light that came from her own white feet, stealing out of her black cloak.
The Moon drew her cloak faster about her and trembled, but she wouldn't go back without seeing all there was to be seen; so on she went, stepping as light as the wind in summer from tuft to tuft between the muddy, gurgling water holes. Just as she came near a big black pool her foot slipped and she was nigh tumbling in. She grabbed with both hands at a snag near by, to steady herself with, but as she touched it, it twined itself round her wrists, like a pair of handcuffs, and gripped her so that she couldn't move. She pulled and twisted and fought, but it was no good. She was fast, and must stay fast.
Presently as she stood trembling in the dark, wondering if help would come, she heard something calling in the distance, calling, calling, and then dying away with a sob, till the marshes were full of this pitiful crying sound; then she heard steps floundering along, squishing in the mud and slipping on the tufts, and through the darkness she saw a white face with great feared eyes.
'T was a man strayed in the bogs. Mazed with fear he struggled on toward the flickering light that looked like help and safety. And when the poor Moon saw that he was coming nigher and nigher to the deep hole, farther and farther from the path, she was so mad and so sorry that she struggled and fought and pulled harder than ever. And though she couldn't get loose she twisted and turned, till her black hood fell back off her shining yellow hair, and the beautiful light that came from it drove away the darkness.
Oh, but the man cried with joy to see the light again. And at once all evil things fled back into the dark corners, for they cannot abide the light. So he could see where he was, and where the path was, and how he could get out of the marsh. And he was in such haste to get away from the Quicks, and Bogles, and Things that dwelt there, that he scarce looked at the brave light that came from the beautiful shining yellow hair, streaming out over the black cloak and falling to the water at his feet. And the Moon herself was so taken up with saving him, and with rejoicing that he was back on the right path, that she clean forgot that she needed help herself, and that she was held fast by the Black Snag.
So off he went, spent and gasping, and stumbling and sobbing with joy, flying for his life out of the terrible bogs. Then it came over the Moon, she would main like to go with him. So she pulled and fought as if she were mad, till she fell on her knees, spent with tugging, at the foot of the snag. And as she lay there, gasping for breath, the black hood fell forward over her head. So out went the blessed light and back came the darkness, with all its Evil Things, with a screech and a howl. They came crowding round her, mocking and snatching and beating; shrieking with rage and spite, and swearing and snarling, for they knew her for their old enemy, that drove them back into the corners, and kept them from working their wicked wills.
"Drat thee!" yelled the witch-bodies, "thou 'st spoiled our spells this year agone!"
"And us thou sent'st to brood in the corners!" howled the Bogles.
And all the Things joined in with a great "Ho, ho!" till the very tussocks shook and the water gurgled. And they began again.
"We'll poison her—poison her!" shrieked the witches.
And "Ho, ho!" howled the Things again.
"We'll smother her—smother her!" whispered the Crawling Horrors, and twined themselves round her knees.
And "Ho, ho!" mocked the rest of them.
And again they all shouted with spite and ill-will. And the poor Moon crouched down, and wished she was dead and done with.
And they fought and squabbled what they should do with her, till a pale gray light began to come in the sky; and it drew nigh the dawning. And when they saw that, they were feared lest they shouldn't have time to work their will; and they caught hold of her, with horrid bony fingers, and laid her deep in the water at the foot of the snag. And the Bogles fetched a strange big stone and rolled it on top of her, to keep her from rising. And they told two of the Will-o-the-wykes to take turns in watching on the black snag, to see that she lay safe and still, and couldn't get out to spoil their sport.
And there lay the poor Moon, dead and buried in the bog; till some one would set her loose; and who'd know where to look for her?
Well, the days passed, and 't was the time for the new moon's coming, and the folk put pennies in their pockets and straws in their caps so as to be ready for her, and looked about, for the Moon was a good friend to the marsh folk, and they were main glad when the dark time was gone, and the paths were safe again, and the Evil Things were driven back by the blessed Light into the darkness and the waterholes.
But days and days passed, and the new Moon never came, and the nights were aye dark, and the Evil Things were worse than ever. And still the days went on, and the new Moon never came. Naturally the poor folk were strangely feared and mazed, and a lot of them went to the Wise Woman who dwelt in the old mill, and asked if so be she could find out where the Moon was gone.
"Well," said she, after looking in the brewpot, and in the mirror, and in the Book, "it be main queer, but I can't rightly tell ye what's happened to her. If ye hear aught, come and tell me."
So they went their ways; and as days went by, and never a Moon came, naturally they talked—my word! I reckon they did talk! their tongues wagged at home, and at the inn, and in the garth. But so came one day, as they sat on the great settle in the Inn, a man from the far end of the bog lands was smoking and listening, when all at once he sat up and slapped his knee. "My faicks!" said he, "I'd clean forgot, but I reckon I kens where the Moon be!" and he told them of how he was lost in the bogs, and how, when he was nigh dead with fright, the light shone out, and he found the path and got home safe.
So off they all went to the Wise Woman, and told her about it, and she looked long in the pot and the Book again, and then she nodded her head.
"It's dark still, childer, dark!" says she, "and I can't rightly see, but do as I tell ye, and ye'll find out for yourselves. Go, all of ye, just afore the night gathers, put a stone in your mouth, and take a hazel-twig in your hands, and say never a word till you're safe home again. Then walk on and fear not, far into the midst of the marsh, till ye find a coffin, a candle, and a cross. Then ye'll not be far from your Moon; look, and m'appen ye'll find her."
So come the next night in the darklings, out they went all together, every man with a stone in his mouth, and a hazel-twig in his hand, and feeling, thou may'st reckon, main feared and creepy. And they stumbled and stottered along the paths into the midst of the bogs; they saw naught, though they heard sighings and flutterings in their ears, and felt cold wet fingers touching them; but all together, looking around for the coffin, the candle, and the cross, while they came nigh to the pool beside the great snag, where the Moon lay buried. And all at once they stopped, quaking and mazed and skeery, for there was the great stone, half in, half out of the water, for all the world like a strange big coffin; and at the head was the black snag, stretching out its two arms in a dark gruesome cross, and on it a tiddy light flickered, like a dying candle. And they all knelt down in the mud, and said, "Our Lord," first forward, because of the cross, and then backward, to keep off the Bogles; but without speaking out, for they knew that the Evil Things would catch them, if they didn't do as the Wise Woman told them.
Then they went nigher, and took hold of the big stone, and shoved it up, and afterward they said that for one tiddy minute they saw a strange and beautiful face looking up at them glad-like out of the black water; but the Light came so quick and so white and shining, that they stepped back mazed with it, and the very next minute, when they could see again, there was the full Moon in the sky, bright and beautiful and kind as ever, shining and smiling down at them, and making the bogs and the paths as clear as day, and stealing into the very corners, as though she'd have driven the darkness and the Bogles clean away if she could.
The Farmer of Liddesdale
There was in Liddesdale (in Morven) a Farmer who suffered great loss within the space of one year. In the first place, his wife and children died, and shortly after their death the Ploughman left him. The hiring-markets were then over, and there was no way of getting another Ploughman in the place of the one that left. When spring came his neighbours began ploughing; but he had not a man to hold the plough, and he knew not what he should do. The time was passing, and he was, therefore, losing patience. At last he said to himself, in a fit of passion, that he would engage the first man that came his way, whoever he should be.
Shortly after that a man came to the house. The Farmer met him at the door, and asked him whither was he going, or what was he seeking? He answered that he was a Ploughman, and that he wanted an engagement. "I want a Ploughman, and if we agree about the wages, I will engage thee. What dost thou ask from this day to the day when the crop will be gathered in?"
"Only as much of the corn when it shall be dry as I can carry with me in one burden-withe."
"Thou shalt get that," said the Farmer, and they agreed.
Next morning the Farmer went out with the Ploughman, and showed him the fields which he had to plough. Before they returned, the Ploughman went to the wood, and having cut three stakes, came back with them, and placed one of them at the head of each one of the fields. After he had done that he said to the Farmer, "I will do the work now alone, and the ploughing need no longer give thee anxiety."
Having said this, he went home and remained idle all that day. The next day came, but he remained idle as on the day before. After he had spent a good while in that manner, the Farmer said to him that it was time for him to begin to work now, because the spring was passing away, and the neighbours had half their work finished.
He replied, "Oh, our land is not ready yet."
"How dost thou think that?"
"Oh, I know it by the stakes."
If the delay of the Ploughman made the Farmer wonder, this answer made him wonder more. He resolved that he would keep his eye on him, and see what he was doing.
The Farmer rose early next morning, and saw the Ploughman going to the first field. When he reached the field, he pulled the stake at its end out of the ground, and put it to his nose. He shook his head and put the stake back in the ground, He then left the first field and went to the rest. He tried the stakes, shook his head, and returned home. In the dusk he went out the second time to the fields, tried the stakes, shook his head, and after putting them again in the ground, went home. Next morning he went out to the fields the third time. When he reached the first stake he pulled it out of the ground and put it to his nose as he did on the foregoing days. But no sooner had he done that than he threw the stake from him, and stretched away for the horses with all his might.
He got the horses, the withes, and the plough, and when he reached the end of the first field with them, he thrust the plough into the ground, and cried:
"My horses and my leather-traces, and mettlesome lads, The earth is coming up!"
He then began ploughing, kept at it all day at a terrible rate and before the sun went down that night there was not a palm-breadth of the three fields which he had not ploughed, sowed, and harrowed. When the Farmer saw this he was exceedingly well pleased, for he had his work finished as soon as his neighbours.
The Ploughman was quick and ready to do everything that he was told, and so he and the Farmer agreed well until the harvest came. But on a certain day when the reaping was over the Farmer said to him that he thought the corn was dry enough for putting in. The Ploughman tried a sheaf or two, and answered that it was not dry yet. But shortly after that day he said that it was now ready. "If it is," said the Farmer, "we'd better begin putting it in."
"We will not until I get my share out of it first," said the Ploughman. He then went off to the wood, and in a short time returned, having in his hand a withe scraped and twisted. He stretched the withe on the field, and began to put the corn in it. He continued putting sheaf after sheaf in the withe until he had taken almost all the sheaves that were on the field. The Farmer asked of him what he meant? "Thou didst promise me as wages as much corn as I could carry with me in one burden-withe, and here I have it now," said the Ploughman, as he was shutting the withe.
The Farmer saw that he would be ruined by the Ploughman, and therefore said:
"'T was in the Mart I sowed, 'T was in the Mart I baked, 'T was in the Mart I harrowed. Thou Who hast ordained the three Marts, Let not my share go in one burden-withe.'"
Instantly the withe broke, and it made a loud report, which echo answered from every rock far and near. Then the corn spread over the field, and the Ploughman went away in a white mist in the skies, and was seen no more.
The Badger's Money
Once upon a time, in a hut at a place called Namekata, in Hitache, there lived an old priest, famous neither for learning nor wisdom, but bent only on passing his days in prayer and meditation. He had not even a child to wait upon him, but prepared his food with his own hands. Night and morning he recited the prayer, "Namu Amida Butsu," intent upon that alone. Although the fame of his virtue did not reach far, yet his neighbours respected and revered him, and often brought him food and raiment; and when his roof or his walls fell out of repair, they would mend them for him; so for the things of this world he took no thought.
One very cold night, when he little thought any one was outside, he heard a voice calling, "Your reverence! your reverence!" So he rose and went out to see who it was, and there he beheld an old badger standing. Any ordinary man would have been greatly alarmed at the apparition; but the priest, being such as he has been described above, showed no sign of fear, but asked the creature his business. Upon this the badger respectfully bent its knees, and said:
"Hitherto, sir, my lair has been in the mountains, and of snow or frost I have taken no heed; but now I am growing old, and this severe cold is more that I can bear. I pray you to let me enter and warm myself at the fire of your cottage, that I may live through this bitter night."
When the priest heard what a helpless state the beast was reduced to, he was filled with pity, and said:
"That's a very slight matter; make haste and come in and warm yourself."
The badger, delighted with so good a reception, went into the hut, and squatting down by the fire began to warm itself; and the priest, with renewed fervour, recited his prayers and struck his bell before the image of Buddha, looking straight before him. After two hours the badger took its leave, with profuse expressions of thanks, and went out; and from that time forth it came every night to the hut. As the badger would collect and bring with it dried branches and dead leaves from the hills for firewood, the priest at last became very friendly with it, and got used to its company; so that if ever, as the night wore on, the badger did not arrive, he used to miss it, and wonder why it did not come. When the winter was over, and the spring-time came at the end of the second month, the badger gave up its visits, and was no more seen; but, on the return of the winter, the beast resumed its old habit of coming to the hut. When this practice had gone on for ten years, one day the badger said to the priest, "Through your reverence's kindness for all these years, I have been able to pass the winter nights in comfort. Your favours are such that, during all my life, and even after my death, I must remember them. What can I do to requite them? If there is anything that you wish for, pray tell me."
The priest, smiling at this speech, answered, "Being such as I am, I have no desire and no wishes. Glad as I am to hear your kind intentions, there is nothing that I can ask you to do for me. You need feel no anxiety on my account. As long as I live, when the winter comes, you shall be welcome here." The badger, on hearing this, could not conceal its admiration at the depth of the old man's benevolence; but having so much to be grateful for, it felt hurt at not being able to requite it. As this subject was often renewed between them, the priest at last, touched by the goodness of the badger's heart, said, "Since I have shaven my head, renounced the world, and forsaken the pleasures of this life, I have no desire to gratify, yet I own I should like to possess three riyos in gold. Food and raiment I receive by the favour of the villagers, so I take no heed for those things. Were I to die to-morrow, and attain my wish of being born again into the next world, the same kind folk have promised to meet and bury my body. Thus, although I have no other reason to wish for money, still if I had three riyos I would offer them up at some holy shrine, that masses and prayers might be said for me, whereby I might enter into salvation. Yet I would not get this money by violent or unlawful means; I only think of what might be if I had it. So you see, since you have expressed such kind feelings toward me, I have told you what is on my mind." When the priest had done speaking, the badger leaned its head on one side with a puzzled and anxious look, so much so that the old man was sorry he had expressed a wish which seemed to give the beast trouble, and tried to retract what he had said. "Posthumous honours, after all, are the wish of ordinary men, I, who am a priest, ought not to entertain such thoughts, or to want money; so pray pay no attention to what I have said;" and the badger, feigning assent to what the priest had impressed upon it, returned to the hills as usual.
From that time forth the badger came no more to the hut. The priest thought this very strange, but imagined either that the badger stayed away because it did not like to come without the money, or that it had been killed in an attempt to steal it; and he blamed himself for having added to his sins for no purpose, repenting when it was too late: persuaded, however, that the badger must have been killed, he passed his time in putting up prayers upon prayers for it.
After three years had gone by, one night the old man heard a voice near his door calling out, "Your reverence! your reverence!"
As the voice was like that of the badger, he jumped up as soon as he heard it, and ran out to open the door; and there, sure enough, was the badger. The priest, in great delight, cried out, "And so you are safe and sound, after all! Why have you been so long without coming here? I have been expecting you anxiously this long while."
So the badger came into the hut, and said, "If the money which you required had been for unlawful purposes, I could easily have procured as much as ever you might have wanted; but when I heard that it was to be offered to a temple for masses for your soul, I thought that, if I were to steal the hidden treasure of some other man, you could not apply to a sacred purpose money which had been obtained at the expense of his sorrow. So I went to the island of Sado, and gathering the sand and earth which had been cast away as worthless by the miners, fused it afresh in the fire; and at this work I spent months and days." As the badger finished speaking, the priest looked at the money which it had produced, and sure enough he saw that it was bright and new and clean; so he took the money, and received it respectfully, raising it to his head.
"And so you have had all this toil and labour on account of a foolish speech of mine? I have obtained my heart's desire, and am truly thankful."
As he was thanking the badger with great politeness and ceremony, the beast said, "In doing this I have but fulfilled my own wish; still I hope that you will tell this thing to no man."
"Indeed," replied the priest, "I cannot choose but tell this story. For if I keep the money in my poor hut, it will be stolen by thieves: I must either give it to some one to keep for me, or else at once offer it up at the temple. And when I do this, when people see a poor old priest with a sum of money quite unsuited to his station, they will think it very suspicious, and I shall have to tell the tale as it occurred; but as I shall say that the badger that gave me the money has ceased coming to my hut, you need not fear being waylaid, but can come, as of old, and shelter yourself from the cold." To this the badger nodded assent, and as long as the old priest lived, it came and spent the winter nights with him.
The Grateful Foxes
One fine spring day, two friends went out to a moor to gather fern, attended by a boy with a bottle of wine and a box of provisions. As they were straying about, they saw at the foot of a hill a fox that had brought out its cub to play; and whilst they looked on, struck by the strangeness of the sight, three children came up from a neighbouring village with baskets in their hands, on the same errand as themselves. As soon as the children saw the foxes, they picked up a bamboo stick and took the creatures stealthily in the rear; and when the old foxes took to flight, they surrounded them and beat them with the stick, so that they ran away as fast as their legs could carry them; but two of the boys held down the cub, and, seizing it by the scruff of the neck, went off in high glee.
The two friends were looking on all the while, and one of them, raising his voice, shouted out, "Hallo! you boys! what are you doing with that fox?"
The eldest of the boys replied, "We're going to take him home and sell him to a young man in our village. He'll buy him, and then he'll boil him in a pot and eat him."
"Well," replied the other, after considering the matter attentively, "I suppose it's all the same to you whom you sell him to. You'd better let me have him."
"Oh, but the young man from our village promised us a good round sum if we could find a fox, and got us to come out to the hills and catch one; and so we can't sell him to you at any price."
"Well, I suppose it cannot be helped, then; but how much would the young man give you for the cub?"
"Oh, he'll give us three hundred cash at least."
"Then I'll give you half a bu; and so you'll gain five hundred cash by the transaction."
"Oh, we'll sell him for that, sir. How shall we hand him over to you?"
"Just tie him up here," said the other; and so he made fast the cub round the neck with the string of the napkin in which the luncheon box was wrapped, and gave half a bu to the three boys, who ran away delighted.
The man's friend, upon this, said to him, "Well, certainly you have got queer tastes. What on earth are you going to keep that fox for?"
"How very unkind of you to speak of my tastes like that. If we had not interfered just now, the fox's cub would have lost its life. If we had not seen the affair, there would have been no help for it. How could I stand by and see life taken? It was but a little I spent—only half a bu—to save the cub, but had it cost a fortune I should not have grudged it. I thought you were intimate enough with me to know my heart; but to-day you have accused me of being eccentric, and I see how mistaken I have been in you. However, our friendship shall cease from this day forth."
And when he had said this with a great deal of firmness, the other, retiring backward and bowing with his hands on his knees, replied:
"Indeed, indeed, I am filled with admiration at the goodness of your heart. When I hear you speak thus, I feel more than ever how great is the love I owe you. I thought that you might wish to use the cub as a sort of decoy to lead the old ones to you, that you might pray them to bring prosperity and virtue to your house. When I called you eccentric just now, I was but trying your heart, because I had some suspicions of you; and now I am truly ashamed of myself."
And as he spoke, still bowing, the other replied, "Really! was that indeed your thought? Then I pray you to forgive me for my violent language."
When the two friends had thus become reconciled, they examined the cub, and saw that it had a slight wound in its foot, and could not walk; and while they were thinking what they should do, they spied out the herb called "Doctor's Nakase," which was just sprouting; so they rolled up a little of it in their fingers and applied it to the part. Then they pulled out some boiled rice from their luncheon box and offered it to the cub, but it showed no sign of wanting to eat; so they stroked it gently on the back, and petted it; and as the pain of the wound seemed to have subsided, they were admiring the properties of the herb, when, opposite to them, they saw the old foxes sitting watching them by the side of some stacks of rice straw.
"Look there! the old foxes have come back, out of fear for their cub's safety. Come, we will set it free!" And with these words they untied the string round the cub's neck, and turned its head toward the spot where the old foxes sat; and as the wounded foot was no longer painful, with one bound it dashed to its parents' side and licked them all over for joy, while they seemed to bow their thanks, looking toward the two friends. So, with peace in their hearts, the latter went off to another place, and, choosing a pretty spot, produced the wine bottle and ate their noon-day meal; and after a pleasant day, they returned to their homes, and became firmer friends than ever.
Now the man who had rescued the fox's cub was a tradesman in good circumstances: he had three or four agents and two maid-servants, besides men-servants; and altogether he lived in a liberal manner. He was married, and this union had brought him one son, who had reached his tenth year, but had been attacked by a strange disease which defied all the physicians' skill and drugs. At last a famous physician prescribed the liver taken from a live fox, which, as he said, would certainly effect a cure. If that were not forthcoming, the most expensive medicine in the world would not restore the boy to health. When the parents heard this, they were at their wits' end. However, they told the state of the case to a man who lived on the mountains. "Even though our child should die for it," they said, "we will not ourselves deprive other creatures of their lives; but you, who live among the hills, are sure to hear when your neighbours go out fox-hunting. We don't care what price we might have to pay for a fox's liver; pray, buy one for us at any expense." So they pressed him to exert himself on their behalf; and he, having promised faithfully to execute the commission went his way.
In the night of the following day there came a messenger, who announced himself as coming from the person who had undertaken to procure the fox's liver; so the master of the house went out to see him.
"I have come from Mr. So-and-so. Last night the fox's liver that you required fell into his hands; so he sent me to bring it to you." With these words the messenger produced a small jar, adding, "In a few days he will let you know the price."
When he had delivered his message, the master of the house was greatly pleased and said, "Indeed, I am deeply grateful for this kindness, which will save my son's life."
Then the good wife came out, and received the jar with every mark of politeness.
"We must make a present to the messenger."
"Indeed, sir, I've already been paid for my trouble."
"Well, at any rate, you must stop the night here."
"Thank you, sir: I've a relation in the next village whom I have not seen for a long while, and I will pass the night with him;" and so he took his leave, and went away.
The parents lost no time in sending to let the physician know that they had procured the fox's liver. The next day the doctor came and compounded a medicine for the patient, which at once produced a good effect, and there was no little joy in the household. As luck would have it, three days after this the man whom they had commissioned to buy the fox's liver came to the house; so the good wife hurried out to meet him and welcome him.
"How quickly you fulfilled our wishes, and how kind of you to send at once! The doctor prepared the medicine, and now our boy can get up and walk about the room; and it's all owing to your goodness."
"Wait a bit!" cried the guest, who did not know what to make of the joy of the two parents. "The commission with which you entrusted me about the fox's liver turned out to be a matter of impossibility, so I came to-day to make my excuses; and now I really can't understand what you are so grateful to me for."
"We are thanking you, sir," replied the master of the house, bowing with his hands on the ground, "for the fox's liver which we asked you to procure for us."
"I really am perfectly unaware of having sent you a fox's liver; there must be some mistake here. Pray inquire carefully into the matter."
"Well, this is very strange. Four nights ago, a man of some five or six and thirty years of age came with a verbal message from you, to the effect that you had sent him with a fox's liver, which you had just procured, and said that he would come and tell us the price another day. When we asked him to spend the night here, he answered that he would lodge with a relation in the next village, and went away."
The visitor was more and more lost in amazement, and, leaning his head on one side in deep thought, confessed that he could make nothing of it. As for the husband and wife, they felt out of countenance at having thanked a man so warmly for favours of which he denied all knowledge; and so the visitor took his leave, and went home.
That night there appeared at the pillow of the master of the house a woman of about one or two and thirty years of age, who said, "I am the fox that lives at such-and-such a mountain. Last spring, when I was taking out my cub to play, it was carried off by some boys, and only saved by your goodness. The desire to requite this kindness pierced me to the quick. At last, when calamity attacked your house, I thought that I might be of use to you. Your son's illness could not be cured without a liver taken from a live fox, so to repay your kindness I killed my cub and took out its liver; then its sire, disguising himself as a messenger, brought it to your house."
And as she spoke, the fox shed tears; and the master of the house, wishing to thank her, moved in bed, upon which his wife awoke and asked him what was the matter; but he, too, to her great astonishment, was biting the pillow and weeping bitterly.
"Why are you weeping thus?" asked she.
At last he sat up in bed, and said, "Last spring, when I was out on a pleasure excursion, I was the means of saving the life of a fox's cub, as I told you at the time. The other day I told Mr. So-and-so that, although my son were to die before my eyes, I would not be the means of killing a fox on purpose; but asked him in case he heard of any hunter killing a fox, to buy it for me. How the foxes came to hear of this I don't know; but the foxes to whom I had shown kindness killed their own cub and took out the liver; and the old dog-fox, disguising himself as a messenger from the person to whom we had confided the commission, came here with it. His mate has just been at my pillow-side and told me all about it; hence it was that, in spite of myself, I was moved to tears."
When she heard this, the good wife likewise was blinded by her tears, and for a while they lay lost in thought; but at last, coming to themselves, they lighted the lamp on the shelf on which the family idol stood, and spent the night in reciting prayers and praises, and the next day they published the matter to the household and to their relations and friends. Now, although there are instances of men killing their own children to requite a favour, there is no other example of foxes having done such a thing; so the story became the talk of the whole country.